Who found the Jade Head of Kinich Ahau, at Altun Ha?

            On one of my various trips to the Mayan Ruins at Altun Ha, I was fortunate to meet, Jenivieve August, a local tour guide from the town of Rockstone Pond. She is the grand daughter of one of the two Belizeans, who uncovered the jade head at Altun Ha, while working with Dr. David Pendergast. Her grandfather, Mr. Wilhelm Leslie of Rockstone Pond, along with another Belizean (Mr. Winston Herbert of Lucky Strike Village), had discovered the famous jade sculpture of Kinich Ahau, during their lunch break. Their persistence paid off as they uncovered what is now a  National Treasure.  Our visit with Jenivieve  August, was brief but it was informative and a pleasant surprise.   Jenivieve has extensive knowledge of Altun Ha and her personal connection to the town of Rockstone Pond and to the jade head found at Altun Ha, is an extra special treat.

AltunHa.com photo collage

Jenivieve August / Local Tour Guide  –  Temple of the Masonary Arts / Altun Ha   –   Leo Hulse / Belizean Artist   –   Luis Longsworth / Belizean Artist   –  Michael Gentle / Local Merchant

We also met local craftsmen, Leo Hulse, Luis Longsworth. and merchant, Michael Gentle.

My brother, and I drove down to Altun Ha from Corozal Town and we had a great time, even-though, it was overcast, and the sun only came out for a brief moment. Standing on top of the ceremonial alters, I thought of my grandmother and I wondered what life must have been like for her ancestors.  There was a few tour groups doing their thing and overall, it was just another day in paradise. Just being there was awesome, standing in a place of great cultural significance, that we have only yet to fully understand. It was here that the largest jade sculpture ever found in the Mayan world was discovered, the sculpture of the head of the Mayan Sun God, Kinich Ahau.

They were selling beautiful carvings and sculptures made of exquisite local hard woods like, Ziricote and Rosewood, among others. The Mayan and African, arts and craft motifs, are displayed side by side and show the diversity of cultures and the intrinsic beauty of the country of Belize.

On our way back we met a lady on the Northern Highway  that told us she  had been crowned  the Tilapia Queen.  She was bubbly, full of life and displayed a certain happiness that is a common quality among the local people in Belize.  We had a nice chat with her in creole, it was great.  She happened to be on her way to town, (Belize City) to party later that night, oh yeah , jump up, till mawning come, just like last week.

It was truly a great adventure, especially being that I was with my brother Edward who has a keen appreciation and respect for the Mayan culture. Finally, to top it off, we met a group of Belizean children, a local posse and their pet turtles. These children were really friendly and were eager to relate their versions of the world, at Altun Ha.  I can see them being tour guides one day and telling stories to visitors who would venture to come to this sacred Mayan site.  I highly recommend you take time out and visit Altun Ha, the most visited Maya site in Belize.

The Maya are truly a great people. Their monuments, artifacts and writings portray their respect and appreciation for nature, their understanding of the elements as Gods and their embrace of science, particularly Mathematics and Astronomy.  All this, in the heart of the Rainforest.  The Maya built their temples in the midst of fertile ground and their agricultural systems were guided by the stars. They were truly, one with nature.

If you have a story about your experience at Altun Ha and would like to share it with folks, let me know. Also if you are a local tour guide and would like to publish an article, let me know.  Children at Altun Ha

Rockstone Pond Posse – Belizean Roots and Culture

Photos

 

Kinich Ahau

The Jade Head is the largest jade sculpture ever uncovered in the Mayan kingdom. It is a representation of the head of Kinich Ahau, the Mayan Sun God. The discovery was made in 1968 at Altun Ha, in Belize, by two locals working with Dr. David Pendergast. Its a site that saw one of the biggest as well as longest excavation projects in the country. The sculpture spent almost 1400 years in a sealed crypt before it was discovered. A total of six tombs were discovered at the site, and the jade head found in Belize was the largest sculpture in jade ever found. The tomb in which it was found was given the name Temple *of the Masonry* Altar”, it is the tallest tomb site here at Altun Ha.

History Of The Jade HeadThis tomb was also called B4 and the jade head was among 40 other artifacts that were discovered in this tomb, of an elderly male. Examination has shown that the body could be that of an important person, someone with enough power to have the Kinich Ahau sculpture in their tomb. Researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact time of the creation of the jade head found in Belize, but what they could do was examine all the cultural remains and artifacts  in the tomb. Based on this assessment, the tomb was created and filled between 600 and 650 AD.

In this tomb, Dr. David Pendergast and his team from the Royal Ontario Museum had to clear away almost 1000 years worth of debris. His initial evaluation of the green artifact was that it was a bead, but as the dust was wiped away, he could see there was much more to the jade head found in Belize.

From the time the Jade Head – Kinich Ahau – Mayan Sun God – was discovered, there was a lot of controversy and secrecy surrounding it. The local government was only four years old and was not equipped to handle a discovery of this magnitude. It was decided that the head be moved to a foreign country until Belize could brace itself. The head made its way from Altun Ha to a museum in Canada. It was placed in a secure and bullet-proof casing. Soon Kinich Ahau came back its country and was placed in the top most room of the Belize Bank. This was located in Belize city. All through the seventies, the jade head found in Belize seemed to hop all over the world. It covered many countries. For an additional cover of safety, a replica was made and this was was put on display whenever the Museum of Belize opened its doors in 2002.

The city of Altun Ha is not that easily marked on the map and is not of much significance from that point of view. However, it was a rather wealthy city and served as a key point in the coastal trade of the region. In fact, there are records to show that they maintained contact with an ancient Mexican City known as Teotihuacan way before the rest of the world. There is evidence to prove that civilization in the area goes all the way back to 200 B.C.

The statue itself weighs around 9.75 pounds and is around six inches tall. It is carved out of a single stone and there has been no other artifact found of this nature. It appears to have its eyes crossed, a semblance of fangs around the mouth and an on its forehead is an Ahau Glyph. These are all signs that the piece is supposed to resemble the Kinich Ahau god.

Besides Kinich Ahau, Chac and Yum Kax the god of rain and the god of corn respectively were also found in the tomb.

This Altun Ha head is one of the greatest works of art across the Mesoamerica. Singularly, it would have taken several months, maybe even a few years to get to the stage we see it in. It was carved from a single rock, which is believed to have been brought in from the Motagua River Valley in Guatemala. The color green is believed to be the Mayan’s way of depicting water as well as the corn plant — a means of sustenance for the Mayan folk.

The Maya of Altun Ha

The History of Altun HaAltun Ha is located in Rockstone Pond Village in Belize, Central America.  It is the most visited Mayan site, in the country. People who want to know more about the ancient Mayan culture, their beliefs, and traditions visit this ceremonial location year-round. The Maya people of Altun Ha left traces of a culture rich in social rituals, mathematics, and the study of the heavens. The temples surrounding the area offer a wealth of information regarding the classical history of the Mayan culture. This site has an area of about 25 square miles and is surrounded by lush forests and vegetation.

History

It is believed that the Mayans began to populate in Altun Ha around 250 BC. During the early classing period, the population grew to about 3,000. Evidence shows that during this period, people in Altun Ha lived a luxurious life. There are discoveries of important items, particularly in Structure F8, which prove that high-valued items were used by their leaders or rulers as accessories. This is also combined with the discovery of a tomb and remains of an elderly male who wore valuable items which only people of high status were able to wear. Leaders and rulers wore items such as jade necklaces, ear flares, shells, pearls, beads, rings, and other valuable accessories. Many other offerings were also found in the tomb like ceramic bowls and jars. This proves that this location became a center of trade during that period.

More precious items and luxurious burials that symbolize wealth have continued to be discovered. Tombs in temples showed proof the early Mayans were not just rich in culture but literally rich. It is believed that around the 11th century, Altun Ha was abandoned by its people. There were several renewed occupations but they later again vacated. Scientists believe that the main reason for the abandonment of Mayans from this place was due to violence or an actual revolt against their rulers.

Maya Sun God Jade Head

The most dazzling discovery in the Temple of the Masonry Altars is the five kilogram, fifteen centimeter, solid-jade head of Kinich Ahau, the Sun God. This sculpture is the largest jade artifact uncovered to date, in the Mayan world. Since its discovery, it has been the focus of great study and speculation.

The Jade is presently in the Central Bank of Belize but is sometimes in the Museum of Belize for display. It is a natural treasure and  the most valuable icon of the people of Belize. Actually, the jade head appears on Belize banknotes in all denominations.

Temple of Green Tomb

This is also called as Temple A-1 and is known for where a Mayan priest-king was found in his funeral chamber. It was found that his tomb had treasures and offerings. It is believed that the tomb was constructed between the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. It showcases terraced plazas and is called the “Green Tomb” because around 300 jade items were found there.

Temple of the Masonry Altars

This temple is the largest and considered the most important in Altun Ha. It served as the main point of Mayan’s religious rites and activities. Evidence shows that bloodletting and ceremonial sacrifices happened in this structure. During these occasions, it is understood, that jade artifacts were destroyed against the altars.

After quarry work was done in 1968, some of the priestly tombs were found to be destroyed. It is believed that there was a violent rebellion that happened in this temple. The famous carved jade head of the Mayan Sun God, Kinich Ahau, was discovered here in Rockstone Pond Village, by Wilhelm Leslie and another local that were working with Dr. David dPendergast.

Travelling

It is not easy to travel to Altun Ha which is why cruise ship passengers are the most common to visit this place. You will need an experienced tour guide for more convenient travel to this location. Comfortable clothing and shoes are also suggested because visitors are required to do a lot of walking and climbing up uneven steps. This is required when visiting the site. The weather is usually humid or hot so it is also a good idea to bring sunscreen protection. Pregnant women or those with medical conditions are recommended not to join this trip.

You will enjoy the rich wildlife and different species of birds while travelling to Belize. Due to its green surroundings, many visitors quickly experience feelings of getting closer to nature and ancient communities. When you get there, make sure to climb the highest plaza that you can reach. If you are able to reach the highest part of this famous Mayan temple, you will definitely experience the history of Altun Ha.

Belize Mayan Ruins

Mayan Ruins in Belize.

Ruins Of BelizeThe rain forest of Belize holds secrets and revelations of some of the most intriguing discoveries of the ancient world known as the Mayan civilization. There has been much speculation over the decades about the great people who inhabited this region, and much of that has to do with the many Mayan ruins that are scattered all over the landscape. Belize’s agriculture-friendly climate along with its easy access to the coast and an abundant marine life gave rise to large cities that still impress visitors to this tropical region of the world.

The most visited site in Belize is Altun Ha, it is a favorite of the locals for its history connected to the jade head. Altun Ha is just 34 miles to the north of Belize City, and because of its close proximity to the sea is thought to have been an important trading center for the 1200 years it was inhabited. Approximately 500 buildings found in this location have been restored demonstrating the fine craftsmanship of the Mayans who built this city.

Just to the South West of Altun Ha is Lamanai (Submerged Crocodile). Evidence indicates that this is city was first inhabited somewhere around 1500 BC. 70 structures have been excavated here, but it is thought that there are more than 700 more just waiting to be unearthed on the 950 acres that make up this site. The Temple of the Jaguar is just a short boat ride on the New River that makes its way through a bird reserve where two jaguar masks can be seen flanking a stairway to the temple.

Further South West from Altun Ha is Cahal Pech (Place of Ticks) which overlooks the town and is within a 20-minute walking distance of San Ignacio. It was the royal palace during the Classic period and was used by an elite Mayan family. It is thought that Cahal Pech was settled somewhere around 1000 BC and was abandoned as recently as 800 AD.

Another location that is also to the South West of Altun Ha and just North West of Cahal Pech is Xunantunich (Maiden of the Rock). It is only eight miles East of the border Belize shares with Guatemala. During the Classic period, this Mayan city was a major ceremonial center with 25 palaces and temples as well as the second tallest structure of Mayan construction that exists in Belize. Many consider Xanantunich to be the most impressive Mayan site yet discovered, and it is also the easiest to access. Xunantunich is situated on a ridge, near the banks of the Mopan river in the Cayo District.

Some thirty or more miles South of Xunantunich and further to the South West from Altun Ha is Caracol (Shell) and is located in the highlands of Vaca Plateau. It is often considered to be the most magnificent ruins of the ancient world in Belize, and it certainly qualifies as among the largest that exists of the Mayan culture. This site was entirely covered by the rain forest for more than 1000 years and therefore is not as extensively restored as many of the other Mayan sites since it was only found in 1937 by local logger, Mrs. Rosa Mai. It is thought that Caracoal was the home of 150,00 people which is larger that today’s Belize City.

South East of Caracol is Labaantun (Place of the Fallen Stones) which is to the North West of Punta Gorda by about 15 miles and near the southern tip of Belize. As you can see, we have now traveled from the Northeastern tip of Belize at Altun Ha to the Southern tip. In the right location of Lubaantun, such as the top of the tallest building, one can see the Caribbean Sea. Although it is thought that this place was only inhabited for approximately 160 years, there is evidence that it was a thriving administrative center. Guatemalan obsidian and jade and the remains of deep sea marine life have been found in this location as well as carved whistles and other musical instruments.

Here is a full list of Maya Ruins in Belize

Mayan ruins located in Belize are Actun Tunichil Muknal, Altun Ha, Baking Pot, Cahal Pech, Caracol,  Cerros, Chaa Creek, Colha, Cuello,  El pilar, K’axob, Lamanai, La Milpa, Louisville, Lubaantun,  Marco Gonzalez, Mayflower, Nim Li Punit, Noh Mul,  Pusilha, San Estevan, Santa Rita Corozal, Uxbenka, Uxbenton, Wild Cane Caye, Xnaheb,  Xunantunich and Yalbac.

Flying To Belize

Flying To BelizeAre you looking for a unique and exotic tourist destination for the upcoming holidays? Belize is a perfect vacation spot that you and your family will surely enjoy. This is especially true if you are traveling with your kids. This small tropical country is located in Central America where the famous Altun Ha Mayan ruin is located. Your children will definitely learn many things about the lost Mayan civilization and they will also be amazed by the pyramids, altars and temples at Altun Ha. It is an awesome experience in the rainforest of Belize.

If you are coming from the US, flying to Belize will take an average of 2 hours. Traveling by air is the fastest means to start your family vacation in Altun Ha. Majority of US airlines offer flights to Belize all year round. The best time to visit this country is between May and December. During these months, flights to Belize are not that expensive and you might even avail of large discounts from travel agencies when you book your ticket and accommodation early.

How to get Discounted Flights:

There are several ways to avail of subsidized tickets to Belize. Whether you are on a “budget trip” or not, it’s always nice to get discounts and save money. You can use the cash instead for shopping, eating and going around the city of Belize.

First, book your flight months in advance. You must understand that flying to Belize, just like when you visit any other country, must be planned at least a few months before the holidays. Doing so will give you great savings on tickets and hotel accommodation. Since airlines would like their carriers to be filled with passengers before taking off, they offer discounted fare to travelers who buy their airplane tickets early.

Second, take advantage of last-minute flights. This does not happen all the time. So if you are lucky, you might get the chance of availing a cheap airfare when a passenger cancelled his flight at least an hour before taking off. Make sure that you are included in the airline’s mailing list to be informed about cancelled flights. However, your travel schedule must be flexible if you plan to be a “chance passenger.” Remember that flying to Belize is easy but getting a reservation in hotels is another aspect to consider. You might get a cheap flight to Altun Ha today but you might not be able to reserve a hotel accommodation. So you also have to weigh your options.

Third, search for package deals from travel agencies. Since you you are traveling in a big group, you can look for travel agents that offer package deals inclusive of airfare, hotel accommodation with breakfast and lunch, airport transfers, and sightseeing with a certified tourist guide. Aside from lowering your travel expenses, this is also a relaxing way to spend the holidays because the travel agency will plan everything for you. Some tour operators might charge additional fees for the tourist guide but consider this as a necessity especially if this is your first time of flying to Belize. It would be great to have an expert explain to you everything about Altun Ha and its masonry temples.

Another way to save money when flying to Belize is through promo flights. Tour operators offer such promotional tours at least once a year. If you are a frequent traveler, airlines will surely send you an alert email about these opportunities. Make sure that you are a member of airline programs for frequent flyer to be notified. Sometimes, you will also see these tour agents distributing posters and flyers in malls and other crowded areas. When you see offers of low airfare to Belize, immediately book a flight. You will regret missing this opportunity because flying to Belize is usually very expensive.

Conclusion:

Flying to Belize can be affordable if you are a smart traveler. There are many ways to get cheap flights to this wonderful country. Always make an early reservation and stay updated about the latest promos and package deal offers. In this way, you will not miss any chance of saving money on your next trip. If possible, avoid traveling alone too. Invite your family and friends and together you can discover amazing things about Altun Ha and other attractions in Belize.

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